Innovation faces Orwellian resistance
- War is Peace
- Freedom is Slavery
- Ignorance is Strength
Compare Orwell's structure and plot to 1984 with current management philosophies. How is the thinking from Oceania different than that of many corporations? After all, the focus is on maintaining the status quo at all odds, rejecting disruptions and anything that will change the dominant management "paradigm". Rather than reinforcing political dogma, many organizations reinforce a bureaucratic dogma that employees must accept, and perform heroic deeds to achieve.
The existing corporate mantra in many companies goes something like this:
- Creativity is Distraction
- Innovation is Risk
- Differentiation is Danger
What appears to be a safe, rational approach to the market is actually the approach most fraught with challenges, as each change or disruption thrust on the business is unforeseen and must be responded to quickly. So a comfortable, static, slow moving organization at a minimum must become an organization that understands foresight and change and is more responsive and nimble, or it will cease to exist. If a responsive and nimble capability is achieved, it is only a small step to innovation.
If we look further at the language of innovation (and Orwell was always interested in language) we can see that innovation is dangerous because it creates "disruption". Innovation can create "radical" change. Both of these terms are antagonistic to status quo organizations. Many innovators are hailed as "revolutionaries" who discovered new concepts or ideas. The language surrounding innovation is a challenge to everyday organizations focused on constantly efficient processes allowing no variation or error. Everything about innovation is subversive to the status quo, unless innovation is part of the status quo.
Finally, we hold up only a handful of innovators - Apple, Google, 3M, etc - in a sea of competitors because innovation is so subversive. It is difficult to innovate once, much less consistently, especially as the inertia of the status quo sets in and the expectations of flawless execution creep in. These firms that we hold up as examples of innovation are either subversive to the status quo, or have embedded innovation into their organizational culture and structure. Orwell would have smiled, and noted that some animals are more equal than other animals when it comes to innovation.